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Week in Review: DEA Asserts Authority Over Cannabis Scheduling

PHOTO Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

Current Events

Week in Review: DEA Asserts Authority Over Cannabis Scheduling

ICYMI: Catch up on the week’s latest news from across the cannabis spectrum.

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, DEA asserts authority over cannabis scheduling, defying HHS recommendation; California cracks down on cannabis testing labs; and cannabis legalization in Canada not linked to spike in cannabis-related psychosis.

DEA cannabis scheduling cannabis flower
PHOTO Esteban López

DEA Asserts Authority Over Cannabis Scheduling, Defying HHS Recommendation

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has asserted its authority in deciding the scheduling of cannabis, regardless of recommendations made by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This revelation comes amid an ongoing review of the plant’s legal status, initiated by President Joe Biden to the Secretary of HHS and the attorney general in 2022.

Michael Miller, the Acting Chief of the Office of Congressional Affairs at the DEA, sent a letter to Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) with an overview of the current scheduling review process. 

The letter comes in response to the recommendation by HHS for the DEA to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), opening the dual possibility of researching the plant’s therapeutic potential and expanding the cannabis industry. 

“DEA has the final authority to schedule, reschedule or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act, after considering the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria and HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation,” the letter states. “DEA is now conducting its review.”

Louisiana’s First MMJ Harvest Passes Inspection
PHOTO SC Laboratories

California Cracks Down on Cannabis Testing Labs

In a move to combat rampant labeling scams that have plagued the sector for years, California’s Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) suspended testing of numerous popular products at most previously certified cannabis labs, effective January 1.

For years, there have been allegations that labs routinely manipulated THC potency figures to inflate product values in California’s challenging and highly competitive market. 

According to the DCC’s website, labs are now “required to use the Department of Cannabis Control’s (DCC) standardized cannabinoids test method and standardized operating procedures for testing dried flower, including non-infused pre-rolls.”

Twelve of the state’s 38 labs met the new stringent standards. Labs that fail to comply can still test other products, including edibles and vape pens. However, until they demonstrate their ability to meet the DCC’s expected standards, they’ll be prohibited from conducting tests on flower.

Under California law, all cannabis products must undergo testing at state-certified labs to assess contaminants like pesticides and determine the potency of THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. The THC potency is typically displayed as a percentage on cannabis flower packaging, similar to how alcohol percentages are indicated on beer or wine labels.

The genesis of these new regulations lies in a 2021 state Legislature law aimed at combating labeling fraud within the legal cannabis market. Consumers often pay a premium for cannabis products boasting higher THC content, which, in turn, incentivizes labs to inflate their test results. This manipulation has grown alarmingly common, with a 2022 study revealing that 87% of the 150 tested products exhibited potencies lower than their labeled claims.

Last year, California residents initiated multiple class-action lawsuits against cannabis companies, alleging that overstated potencies amounted to false advertising. This crackdown on testing irregularities signifies a pivotal step in enhancing transparency and credibility within California’s thriving cannabis industry.

The labs that met the DCC’s requirements are 2 Rivers Labs, Bel Costa Labs Long Beach LLC, California Cannabis Testing Labs, CaliGreen Laboratory, Certified Ag Labs, Encore Labs LLC, Harrens Lab Inc., HK Holding LLC, ILS Lab Inc., Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, Pure Cannalyst Lab Inc., Purity Medical Laboratories and SC Laboratories California LLC. 

can cannabis cause psychosis
PHOTO contentdealer

According to data recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, the legalization of the Canadian cannabis market hasn’t led to an increase in cases of cannabis-related psychosis.

Canadian researchers looked at regional changes in healthcare service utilization and occurrences of psychotic disorders shortly after the country legalized adult use cannabis in October 2018. Their findings indicate that in a period of 17 months following cannabis legalization, there’s no significant evidence of heightened healthcare service use or an uptick in new cases of psychotic disorders.

However, the researchers caution that to grasp the full population-level impacts of non-medical cannabis legalization, it’s essential observe these trends over a more extended post-legalization timeframe.

This outcome aligns with a similar conclusion from a 2022 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. That study, too, found that the implementation of Canada’s cannabis legalization framework didn’t result in significant changes in cannabis-induced psychosis or schizophrenia-related emergency department visits.

There hasn’t been a statistically significant increase in psychosis-related health issues in the US, either. A 2022 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open revealed that state legalization in the US wasn’t linked to notable changes in the rates of psychosis-related diagnoses or prescriptions for antipsychotic medications.

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